The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology on Monday, 25 February, asked Twitter to ensure that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are “not undermined and influenced by foreign entities” – and to work “in real time with Election Commission to address issues.”
According to ANI, Anurag Thakur, the BJP MP who’s chairing the panel, read out a personal letter addressed to him by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and allowed Colin Crowell, Vice President and Global Policy Head, to appear.
He then granted 10 days to Dorsey to respond in writing to questions that remained unanswered. Thakur also indicated that they may be summoned again before the committee.
In Dorsey’s absence, Twitter was represented by Crowell who addressed the 31-member IT panel. The committee had summoned Dorsey on 11 February to question him on “safeguarding citizen rights on social/online news media platforms.”
Why Was Twitter Summoned?
The move to summon Dorsey followed a complaint by the Youth for Social Media Democracy, a Right-leaning collective that includes Delhi BJP Spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga.
The summon was sent in the wake of allegations of a Left bias by Twitter by the group.
The 31-member committee currently has 21 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 members from the Rajya Sabha. At present, it comprises 13 MPs of the BJP, including Thakur and LK Advani, and five Congress MPs.
This is a significant development prior to the Lok Sabha elections in April, especially in the wake of social media and messaging platforms being accused of amplifying misinformation, curtailing citizens’ rights to speech, and political bias.
The IT Committee has also summoned representatives of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp on 6 March to hear their views on the same subject of ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media platforms’.
While the committee had initially insisted on meeting only the CEOs of the tech giants, the last letter issued on 20 February mentions ‘representatives’ without defining any specific designation.